- Chris grew up in Longview, Texas as a fan of the Rangers. Longview is less than 150 miles from the Ballpark in Arlington.
In high school, Davis both pitched and played the outfield. In the spring of 2006, he mashed 17 home runs for Navarro Junior College in Texas. Chris was limited on the mound because of a sore back.
But he still boosted his draft stock significantly, going in the fifth round of the 2006 draft, a year after the Angels took him in the 35th round.
And the Rangers provided a bonus of $172,500 to sign Chris. Randy Taylor is the scout who signed him.
In 2007, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Davis as 11th-best prospect in the Rangers organization. And they moved Chris all the way up to #2 in the spring of 2008.
Midway through the 2007 season, Chris had a 35-game hitting streak for the Bakersfield Blaze (CAL-Rangers). That tied the longest streak in California League history, set by Modesto's Brent Gates in 1992. The streak ended on July 18 when he went 0-for-4 with a walk. Davis's streak started June 7 and the 21-year-old third baseman hit .390 with 11 home runs and 50 RBIs in those 35 games.
For the 2007 season, the Rangers named Davis as their Tom Grieve Minor League Player of the Year. Davis split time between Class A Bakersfield and Double-A Frisco, and hit .297 with 36 home runs and 118 RBIs. He was second in all of the minor leagues in home runs and RBIs.
- It wasn't uncommon for Chris to make the 150-mile trip to Rangers Ballpark during his junior and senior years at Longview High School, which happened to be Mark Teixeira's first two seasons in the big leagues. Though Davis was a shortstop and pitcher for the Lobos, the first baseman Teixeira caught the teenager's eye, particularly at the plate.
"I just remember how cool it was that they played the theme from 'The Natural' whenever he hit a home run," Davis recalls. "And I think he homered every time I was out there."
The parallels between Teixeira and Davis are obvious. The Rangers drafted Teixeira, a 6'3", 220-pound power hitter, out of college. He played his first pro season at third base, before moving across the diamond as he broke into the big leagues as a first baseman.
Similarly, Texas drafted the 6' 3", 220-pound Davis out of college. After a debut summer at first base and the outfield, he played his first full pro season at third base, moving this year to first base and arriving in Arlington at that position. (Jamey Newberg / Special to MLB.com).
There are three tattoos on Davis's upper body—a cross on his back that came in 2006, the word "salvation" scrawled vertically down his right side the following year, and, most recently, the Bible passage from Hebrews 12:1-2.
The passage is etched into Davis's left side, words that resonated even when the dull thud of the ball hitting the catcher's mitt behind him became a daily occurrence, a cause for sleepless nights, and a revolving ticket to Triple-A back when he was with the Rangers organization.
"Let us throw off everything that hinders," reads the black ink over his rib cage. "And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."
The cursive J that's tattooed on his left ring finger is for his wife, Jill.
Davis started his first Major League game at first base on June 27, 2008, and hit his first Major League home run during the game. He also homered the next day, becoming the first Texas Ranger to homer in both of his first two Major League starts.
During the offseason before 2011 spring training, Chris recommitted to Jesus Christ. Sent back to Triple-A Round Rock to start the season, Davis thought that if things didn't change soon—if the Rangers didn't give him a real shot or trade him—he was going to become a minister. He prayed about it, and the very next day, Chris hit three home runs.
Chris is a workout junkie who spent the offseason before 2013 Spring Training in North Dallas waking up before sunrise and trudging to the neighborhood track to do three hours of speed and explosiveness training.
During Davis's strong first half of the 2013 season, the hint that he must be doing steroids rose from the talk shows and tabloids.
"There's nothing in my mind or body that would ever allow me to do something like that," Chris said, growing a bit testy. "The people who just assume you're on steroids aren't there in the weight room after a game when you've played four hours in the sweltering heat and you have zero energy and you know you need to get a workout in. It's just disrespectful."
Davis and his wife Jill live in Baltimore, Maryland (in-season) and Dallas, Texas (off-season). They married in 2011.
Davis was featured on one of SI's regional covers for the magazine's Aug. 26, 2013 issue.
The intrigue over what Davis accomplished in 2013 extends well beyond the confines of the O's record book. Because in the age of drug testing, of specialized bullpens and ample high-velocity arms, of intense video study and spray charts and hot and cold zones, of high strikeouts and low batting averages, and a steady stream of 2-1 games, the 50-homer hitter is an increasingly captivating commodity.
That Davis, the 27th member of the 50-homer club, has become one qualifies as a surprise, as was the case when Jose Bautista, the last player to reach the mark, did it in 2010. Then again, we didn't have full access or understanding of the competitive fire, the hunger to adjust and adapt and the untapped talent that rested within Davis and Bautista, both of whom have faced unfair and undue scrutiny of their accomplishments from the intellectually lazy.
For Davis, that scrutiny will persist, undoubtedly. The Big 50 only refreshes his prominent spot on the national radar and therefore only regurgitates the discourse over whether his coming-of-age is on the up-and-up. It's the consistency with which that power now presents itself that is the real revelation here.
Davis, through much trial and error, found a routine and an approach that worked for him. And then he repeated it and repeated it and repeated it again. We saw the first signs of his surge last season, when his 33 homers, including 10 in the final month, helped propel the O's to a Wild Card berth. And this season, he's proven to be the real deal, the only man standing between Miguel Cabrera and his second consecutive Triple Crown.
Some credit here goes to Robinson Cano, who came across Davis in winter ball after the 2010 season and encouraged him to focus on his strengths (quite literally) and not be so caught up in contact, a conversation Davis has cited as his epiphany. Credit also goes to Andy MacPhail, who made the savvy swap with the Rangers.
Mostly, though, credit goes to Davis himself. For following his inherent belief in his abilities into the video room, into the batting cage and into the batter's box, where, on September 13, 2013, he swung big, swung hard, and hit the Big 50. (Castrovince - mlb.com - 9/13/13)
2014 Spring Training Q&A:
Favorite food: Mexican food. From Texas.
Favorite movie: Forrest Gump. It's a feel-good story. Saw it a long time ago, will still sit and watch it when it's on.
Special talent: I'm a good reader. See, you're surprised. I read a lot. The last book I read was Francis Chan's, "Crazy Love." As you can see right now [on my iPad], I'm reading "The Blessed Life" [by Robert Morris].
If I wasn't a baseball player I'd be ... Probably a youth pastor.
Favorite offseason place: Home [just north of Dallas]. Just being at home with my family. I hunt a lot so anywhere in the woods, in nature.
Prized possession: My Bible. It's what I carry with me everywhere.
Chris Davis and his wife, Jill, welcomed a baby girl on 5/25/14 in Baltimore. It is the couple's first child.
"Everything went well, great," manager Buck Showalter said. "I promised him before we left, I said, 'Listen, don't feel like you have to text me and do this and do that. I'll leave you alone. Then on the plane [after the game] I texted him, I said, "I lied. I'm dying to know how everything went.'"
SUSPENSION FOR ADDERALL
September 12, 2014: The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball announced that Davis has received a 25-game suspension without pay after testing positive for an amphetamine in violation of Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
September 15, 2014: Davis was one of several people who helped lift an overturned truck, aiding accident victims on a weekday afternoon, a witness at the scene told MASNSports.com. According to the firsthand account, Davis waved people over to help him lift what was described as a heavy pickup truck in order to unpin a man who was trapped underneath.
Mike Soukup, one of the people who helped Davis said that the accident occurred on I-295 and that Davis, who currently is serving a 25-game suspension for a positive amphetamine test, was among the first people who attempted to help.
"When I turned to look at the first man, I instantly noticed a VERY strong resemblance to Chris Davis," Soukup wrote in an email to MASNSports.com. "He didn't have any Orioles gear on (so I wasn't sure ... there was no big '19' on him anywhere!), except his tennis shoes were black and orange.
"We glanced at each other with a 'good job' look and I said, 'Chris?' He said, 'Yeah?' 'Chris Davis?' 'Yeah?' I said, 'One hell of a way to meet Chris Davis.'"
Davis speaks out on his suspension (November 22, 2014): “I haven’t really talked a lot about it. I didn’t want to take the focus off what the team was doing, but eventually I knew that I was going to have to address it and I wanted to. I think the fans deserve an explanation. I think they want to know what happened.”
“Basically, in a moment of weakness I made a decision that cost me greatly. And it just goes to show that no matter how successful you’ve been in the past, no matter how much stuff you have, no matter how strong you are in your faith, the devil is going to continue to come after you.”
“Looking back on it, it was probably the best thing that could have happened at the time, but it was definitely one of the hardest things that I’ve ever had to go through.
"The first few days after the suspension came out, I was really down, I was really depressed because I felt I had let so many people down and had really just scarred my reputation to the point where everything that I had done wasn’t really going to count for anything, and God just kind of reached down and put his arm around me at that time and let me know it’s OK to stumble as long as you continue to get up and move forward and learn from your mistakes.
“I’m at a point right now where I don’t wish to ever go through that again, but I appreciate the process and where it has brought me spiritually.”
September 25, 2014: Davis received a 25-game suspension for failing a second test for the drug. (Davis reportedly previously had an exemption, but not in 2014.) He missed the final 17 games of the 2014 regular season, and then he sat out all seven of the Orioles' playoff games. That means Davis has one more game left to serve in his suspension, the first game of the 2015 regular season.
On December 17, 2014: Chris received clearance from Major League Baseball to use Adderall in the 2015 season. Davis blamed his violation of MLB's drug program on his use of the drug, which is commonly used to combat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It was his second failed test.
At the 2015 annual FanFest event, Davis said he was diagnosed with ADHD in 2008 and that he took Adderall to help him better function in everyday life. He had been granted a therapeutic-use exemption for Adderall by Major League Baseball in previous seasons but was denied in 2013, when he led the majors with 53 homers. He did not reapply for an exemption last season, when he admitted to taking Adderall multiple times to help his focus.
Davis has been granted another year-long exemption, but for the prescription drug Vyvanse. Unlike Adderall, Vyvanse is a slow-releasing stimulant that can last, according to research, up to 14 hours, according to Dr. David Goodman, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. (An extended-release formulation of Adderall called Adderall XR is also available.)
Davis is hoping that his 25-game suspension is now behind him. "There's no doubt [I have a new mindset]," said Davis, who now has a TUE (therapeutic use exemption) for his ADHD medication.
"I think you realize when something like the suspension comes up, it's really a privilege to be here and a blessing to play at this level each and every day. I mean, we work hard, day in and day out to prepare ourselves and to give ourselves the best opportunity to succeed. But at the end of the day, it's a privilege to be here and be a part of this team."
Davis's suspension last season was for two positive tests of Adderall and he is expecting he'll face some hostile crowds away from Camden Yards. He already got a taste of things during Spring Training 2015. "One of the biggest things for me was going through 2013, all the false accusations and having to hear all that stuff about steroids because I was having success," Davis said.
"I think that kind of prepared me to go out there and play, whether they are cheering for you or against you [in the stands]."
O's manager Buck Showalter said, "It's been 209 days since he played in a Major League game. I know he's excited. So are we to have him back. It's been a long road for him. He'd be the first to tell you it was self-inflicted. But I don't think anybody here doesn't think he paid a dear price for it." (Ghiroli - mlb.com 4/8/15)
Chris has had a lot of hearing loss through the years because he does not use earplugs while hunting. He has trouble hearing anything that is spoken or occurs behind him. (MLB Network - Intentional Talk interview - 5/06/15)
In 2015, Chris was named the Louis M. Hatter Most Valuable Oriole Award winner by members of the local media, and he was recognized in an on-field ceremony prior to the regular-season finale against the Yankees. (Kruth - mlb.com - 10/2/15)
Dec 13, 2016: When he signed a club-record seven-year, $161 million contract, Davis referenced wanting to do more in the community. He made good on that promise, as he and his wife, Jill, announced a new partnership with the University of Maryland Children's Hospital (UMCH). The Davis family will serve as ambassadors for UMCH, helping to raise awareness for childhood illnesses and UMCH's role as a leader in patient care and pediatric disease research and teaching future generations of health care providers.
"We wanted to get involved in several ways with the city," Davis said of his wife, who previously worked as a nurse. "There were a number of organizations that we've already partnered with throughout the years that we're going to continue to work with. We wanted to do something that was a little closer to home for Jill, something that she could have a little bit more involvement with.
"We just kind of fell in love with the hospital, with the people who work there, the things that they're doing, where they want to go. We're all in on that. And we decided to come up here this offseason and do some things to kind of get involved in and show our faces even though we're kind of here and there [in Texas]." (B Ghiroli - MLB.com - Dec 13, 2016)
In 2008, after a hot start with his hometown team, the Rangers, Davis was dubbed "Crush Davis" by local media and fans. It's a play on "Crash Davis" from the movie "Bull Durham." The name stuck with the slugger, who led the Majors in home runs in 2013.
January 24, 2018: Twin daughters, Evelyn Kay and Dorothy Grace were born for Chris, Jill and big sister Ella.
The children made their way to home plate at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 14, 2018, some wearing smiles of joy, others with looks of trepidation. However, each came with a common goal: To participate in a T-ball challenge where they had a chance to belt a ball off a tee.
These little ones got some help from a few friends. Chris and his wife, Jill, steadied them, gave advice and helped them get ready to take their cuts. Most were—or had some connection to—patients from the Pediatric Heart Program of the University of Maryland Children's Hospital (UMCH) at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
This was all part of the second annual "Crush's Homers for Hearts," a fundraiser hosted by Chris and Jill Davis that benefits the Pediatric Heart Program. There was also a reception, but the Home Run Derby challenge needed to be postponed due to weather issues. The Orioles said that will be rescheduled at a later date.
This event raised almost $100,000 last year; in addition, Davis donated $1,000 for each homer he hit last season, which brought in another $26,000. He is doing that pledge once more this season, and both Davis and his wife are thrilled to help, especially since they had twins in the offseason.
"Last year, it was really special for us but this year, it's even more special because this offseason, when we had our twins, we kind of got a little glimpse into what these parents and families go through," Jill Davis said. "It really hits close to home. We're just really committed to doing whatever we can to help these families."
Chris clearly enjoyed helping the little kids out on the field. He worked at setting the children up in the batter's box, adjusting their swings and giving some baseball advice. He said he's glad to be able to help the people at the hospital because what they do means so much to so many.
"It definitely changes your perspective once you have your own kids—you kind of see what that entails, and how delicate they are, but really, how resilient they are," Davis said. "I think we both have a heart for not only the kids and the parents … there's a lot of amazing people [who work at the hospital] and they're doing some great things."
There were a few doctors from the hospital at the event, and all said how happy they were that Chris and Jill Davis got together with them to start this event. Steve Czinn, Geoff Rosenthal, and Sunjay Kaushal were the doctors present, all wearing Orioles jerseys and proud of what was taking place.
"To have somebody like Chris Davis and Jill Davis come to us and help us put a program like this on, it just speaks volumes for what we're doing," Czinn said. "The PR, the visibility—it's priceless."
Kaushal said he also loved watching one of his patients on the field hitting during the T-ball challenge. When asked how the child's swing looked, the doctor simply grinned. "Ah, perfect," he said. (Seidel - mlb.com - 5/14/18)
Dec 4, 2018: After the front office positions are filled, a manager is hired and his coaching staff solidified, only then will new Orioles general manager and executive vice president Mike Elias' focus shift entirely to his roster. The biggest question going forward remains whether or not that turnover will include Chris Davis.
Davis appears likely to return despite a disappointing 2018, when he put together one of the worst offensive seasons in Major League history. There are simply few options but to hope for a bounce-back season from Davis, who is owed $92 million through 2022. Davis himself is adopting a similar mind-set.
"I think a lot of it resetting and starting over," Davis said on MLB Network Radio. "For me, it's kind of stepping back, taking a deep breath and realizing there is a little bit different landscape there." The first baseman remains one of a handful of holdovers from the group that helped Baltimore to playoff appearances from 2015-16. He was one of the few veterans the club was unable to unload at 2018's non-waiver Trade Deadline, given his production and financial attachments.
"Not necessarily from scratch, but a lot of things have changed. We traded away a large portion of our team, we're in a rebuilding phase now and it looks a little different," Davis said. "I guess now I'm the old man in the clubhouse, which is kind of weird, but it's going to be a lot of fun. I think we're going to surprise some people these next couple of years, and hopefully we can turn it around pretty quick."
Elias struck a similar tone when asked about Davis at his introductory press conference, saying, "This lineup is at its best with a productive Chris Davis, a dangerous Davis in the middle of the lineup. I want to see that happen." But Elias has made little secret of his plans for a thorough rebuild, calling "it a process that doesn't have shortcuts."
That could hint at a tough decision looming at some point regarding Davis, who finished 2018 with a .168/.243/.296 line across 522 plate appearances. His batting average was the lowest in baseball history for a player with enough at bats to qualify for the batting title. He is set to earn $23 million of the Orioles' $60 million on the books for 2019—nearly 40 percent of their current projected Opening Day payroll. (T Trezza - MLB.com - Dec 4, 2018)
Dec 12, 2018: Over the years, agent Scott Boras and the Orioles have routinely met during the Winter Meetings, often using the annual gathering to lay the groundwork for deals with some of Boras' most prominent clients. This week, the two sides again convened to discuss one of those clients. But the nature of this year's talks centered on a deal that was struck some time ago. Members of the Orioles' new regime met with Boras to discuss Chris Davis, whose contract and struggles make his future in Baltimore something of an awkward, open question. General manager and executive vice president Mike Elias plans to have a similar in-person meeting with Davis in the near future. The topic will mirror the one Elias and Boras bounced around: how the former slugger can rebound from his historically poor 2018.
"It behooves us, and it behooves Chris and it behooves the Boras Corporation to collaborate and share notes on how we can turn his performance around this year," Elias said. "I feel like we'll all be pulling on the same rope in that regard." In doing so, Elias echoed the comments Boras made to a mass of reporters assembled in the lobby of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, the super agent saying the two sides share hopes of "advancing this and getting Chris' abilities on the field." "We are making great efforts and strides to get it back together," Boras said. "We know he can do it. He's done it so many times for many years."
The question, of course, is how. Davis' production sagged by historic proportions in 2018, when he compiled one of the worst seasons ever by an everyday player. Davis' .168 batting average was the lowest ever for a hitter who qualified for the batting title. He struck out an MLB-worst 37 percent of the time and managed a career-low 16 home runs and 50 OPS+ in 128 games. Davis is owed $92 million through 2022, so that financial commitment roots him on the roster nearly by default. "I just want to see his productivity get better," Elias said. "He's on the team. He's on the team for a while." (J Trezza - MLB.com - Dec 12, 2018)
Dec 21, 2018: All the transition this winter has not stopped the Orioles from venturing into the community, where their outreach has long been directed toward helping local children. In that sense, this year's OriolesREACH holiday party was no different. The 40th annual outing took place on Dec. 11, when Chris Davis led an O's contingent that hosted 80 grade-school students at Dave & Buster's in the Arundel Mills Mall in Hanover, Md.
Together, the Orioles served lunch, played games, signed autographs and took photos with the students, all of whom attend either fourth, fifth or six grade at The Commodore John Rodgers School in Southeast Baltimore. Once identified as a "turnaround school" based on struggling climate, declining enrollment, poor parental satisfaction and low achievement,
Commodore has worked to change that trajectory in recent years. Students selected to attend the party exhibited exemplary attendance, high academic achievement, strong character associated with the school's standards and improvement since the start of the school year. The students' reward was a chance to brush shoulders with Davis. The event was hosted by Rob Long of 105.7 The Fan (WJZ-FM), the flagship station of the Orioles Radio Network. (J Trezza - MLB.com - Dec 21, 2018)
2018: Davis had the highest current WAR (15.6) of any Orioles player.
April 20, 2019: Orioles slugger Chris Davis has had an eventful few weeks. After setting a dubious Major League record for consecutive hitless at-bats, Davis broke it in a big way against the Red Sox -- and now, a week later, we saw his first pitching performance in seven years.
With Baltimore trailing the Twins on Saturday night, 16-7, Davis took the mound in the ninth inning for his second pitching appearance and first since May 2012 -- in which he was credited with a win, no less! (Cut4-MLB.com)
Aug 17, 2019: When 9-year-old Henry Frasca arrived at Fenway Park in April to watch the Orioles play his hometown Red Sox, he had a goal in mind. Henry is a fan of the Red Sox. He’s also a fan of seeing people happy. Henry and his family had been moved by a Sports Illustrated article written last season about Chris Davis and his struggles. The longer Davis’ historic hitless streak grew, the more Henry wanted to reach out to the Orioles’ first baseman.
“He was in pain, and I just didn’t like that,” Henry said. “I decided to try to help him out.”
Henry penned a note in his father’s car on his way to the ballpark. After several determined attempts, he made his way near the Orioles dugout, where he passed the paper on to Baltimore coach Tim Cossins, who took a look at the note and delivered it to Davis, letting him know it was worth a read.
“There are two things I want you to know,” Henry wrote. “First, the way you play baseball has nothing to do with how good a person you are. But also, you have been so good; you have played in the MLB! You are great; don’t give up. We are rooting for you.”
Davis was moved. By that day -- April 13 -- Davis had reached 62 consecutive plate appearances without a hit. The words of the young baseball fan resonated. “When I started reading it, I got a little choked up,” Davis said, sitting next to Henry in the dugout. “But I just thought, ‘You know what? Today’s the day, and I’m going to put his note in my back pocket, I’m going to carry it around with me.’ I had to go get a couple of Ziplocs because I sweat a lot. I threw it in a couple Ziploc bags, put it in my back pocket.”
Davis stepped up to the plate in the first inning and did something he hadn’t done since Sept. 14, 2018. He got a hit, reaching first base with the note in tow. “As ‘Field of Dreams’ as it sounds, we were both positive he was going to come up in the first inning, we were both positive he was going to get a hit,” Henry’s father, Gabriel, said.
The Frascas didn’t know if Davis had, in fact, received the letter. They reached out to the Orioles to ask, and from there, a special meeting was put in motion. Davis wanted to get to know the kid behind the inspiring note, and invited Henry and his father to attend the game in the Orioles’ first series back at Fenway Park since April. “[The note was] talking about how it didn’t really matter who I was on the field, but what kind of person I was,” Davis said. “That’s really what touched me. It kind of made me step back and take a look at the bigger picture. Just knowing that he was keen enough to pick that up and bold enough to say something about it, it meant a lot to me.”
Henry got the full Major League experience. Davis greeted him in the Orioles dugout and took him on a private tour of the clubhouse, where he was given a T-shirt and hat. He’d need the gear for the batting practice he was about to participate in. Davis brought Henry out for warmups, and Henry manned left field. The 9-year-old quickly became a crowd favorite.
“I saw that catch,” Davis proudly said.
“I only made one catch but --” Henry said.
“You got almost a standing ovation,” Davis replied. “The crowd went nuts.”
The pregame experience reminded Davis of the excitement he felt as a kid going to games and seeing Major League players. It was an afternoon neither Davis nor Henry will forget.
“When I woke up this morning, my first thought was, “Oh my gosh, today I’m going to the ballpark,’” Henry said.
Davis replied, “Not just to sit in the seats, to actually play and hang out. It’s been a fun day for me.”
Said Henry, “It’s been one of the best days of my life -- easily.” (J Camerato - MLB.com - Aug 17, 2019)
Nov. 4, 2019: The Davises announced a $3 million donation to the hospital, the largest made by a Baltimore sports figure to the University of Maryland Medical Center. (Rich Dubroff)
Ever since Davis signed a seven-year, $161 million contract extension with the Orioles, he and his wife have been involved with the hospital and a number of other charities.
In addition to his work with the hospital and “Casey Cares,” a program run by Casey Wollenweber Baynes that treats ill children to enjoyable experiences, much of Davis’ work had been private and became public when he was the named as the Orioles’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente award.
“We’re not in this to be recognized or have any of the attention on us,” Davis said. “We want to do what we can to help people out.”
Davis shared the story of his daughter, Evie, who was one of a set of twin girls born to the couple in January 2018. Jill Davis discovered that when she was 22 weeks pregnant that Evie would need a procedure to repair a ventricular septal defect. She’s now perfectly healthy.
The money will be used to construct a pediatric hybrid catherization and operating room. UMMC hopes that this new facility will position them as a leader in children’s heart surgery.
Feb 17, 2020: Shortly after reporting to the Orioles spring complex, Chris Davis stood in front of his clubhouse locker and hinted at a potential choice that would’ve resulted in him being elsewhere. The hypothetical series of events went like this: The Orioles’ first full-squad workout of the spring is here, but Davis is not. He is retired, home in Texas with his wife Jill and three young daughters, having willingly forgone the final three years on his contract. Ultimately, that is not what happened. But it is a scenario Davis considered after slogging through a second consecutive sub-.200 season in 2019.
“I’d be lying if I told you that wasn’t at least talked about at the end of last season,” Davis said. “I know what I’m capable of. I know what I expect of myself. I don’t want to continue to just struggle and be a well-below average producer at the plate. That’s not fair to these guys. That’s not fair to our fans or anyone associated with Baltimore. But I still think there is something left in the tank.” “After two real grinding years,” Davis added, “I do still think there is some time to kind of right the ship.”
In Davis’ words, his motivation to return is twofold. One reason was the offseason training regimen Orioles management and he constructed for him near the end of 2019, which Davis called “very calculated and constructed.” The other was simply because he feels he still can perform.
“The only reason I would’ve walked away was if I physically felt like I couldn’t do it anymore,” he said. “And that was not the case.”
And so it was with that realization Davis embarked on the winter, searching for a semblance of his former self. After years of cutting weight, Davis said he added 25 intentional pounds in hopes of strengthening a frame that “hasn’t produced any results.” That Davis arrived bulkier -- especially in his shoulder/upper back region -- was noticeable to observers both inside the organization and out.
Speaking with reporters after the workout wrapped, manager Brandon Hyde used the words “great” (thrice), “outstanding” and “fantastic” to describe the shape Davis arrived in, and he also spoke complimentary of the first baseman’s first batting practice session. Though Davis and Hyde spoke frequently this winter, Davis disclosed his doubts about returning only his immediate family.
“That’s news to me,” Hyde said.
What Hyde was privy to was Davis’ planned physical transformation, which came as an alternative to any mechanical one. Though he switched up his offseason hitting partner -- it is now former teammate Craig Gentry -- Davis eschewed making any large-scale swing overhauls. That too, was intentional.
“I think that was something everybody was curious about: Am I going to do anything drastic in the box?” Davis said. “The answer is no. I’m not going to crouch down in my legs like Albert Pujols. I hit how I hit. I think the deficiencies the last few years have been due to strength.”
However valid the theory, there is no denying how drastic those deficiencies themselves had gotten. Of batters with at least 2,000 plate appearances (or 500 per season), Davis has been MLB’s third worst hitter by OPS and owns its highest strikeout rate since signing his seven-year, $161 million contract in Jan. 2016 -- the richest in franchise history. He hit .179 with 12 home runs and a .601 OPS in '19, during which he set an MLB record hitless streak and engaged in a dugout altercation with Hyde. Davis was relegated to a bench role by season’s end, and he seems to be squeezed for playing time again with upwards of five younger players in line to simultaneously need at-bats at corner positions by some point this summer.
No. 4 prospect Ryan Mountcastle could force the Orioles’ hand with a big spring, something Davis admitted would help his peace of mind. If No. 5 prospect Yusniel Diaz arrives this year, he’d be prioritized in a crowded mix along with Trey Mancini, Anthony Santander and Renato Núñez. Asked if he would accept being a part-time player, Davis said “it’s hard to say yes right now.”
“Right now I want to be an everyday player,” he said. “I consider myself an everyday player and I think it’s the case until it's proven otherwise.”
Then there is the issue of his contract, which at this point, roots Davis to the roster more than anything else. That roster sizes expand to 26 this season will help, as does the rebuilding Orioles’ position on the competitive spectrum. But the money is key: Davis is owed $69 million through 2023 and $24 million more in deferred money through 2037, most of which would be left on the table should he walk away. (J Trezza - MLB.com - Feb 17, 2020)
Entering the 2020 season Davis is the WAR leader for the Orioles. 1B (12.5 WAR): It has been a rough couple of years for Davis, but hopefully his strong performance in Spring Training this year is a sign of a bounceback to come. (Will Leitch - Mar. 22, 2020)
Chris donated breakfast to the staff at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital during the coronavirus pandemic to honor what would have been Opening Day 2020. Davis and his wife, Jill, made record $3 million donation to the hospital back in December 2019. (Trezza - mlb.com - 4/1/2020)
June 2006: The Rangers chose Davis in the 5th round, out of Navarro Jr. College in Corsicana, Texas.
July 30, 2011: The Rangers sent Davis and RHP Tommy Hunter to the Orioles for Koji Uehara.
January 17, 2014: Chris and the Orioles avoided arbitration by agreeing to a $10.3 million, plus incentives, pact for 2014.
January 16, 2015: Davis and the O's again avoided arbitration, agreeing on a $12 million contract for 2015.
- January 16, 2016: Chris and the Orioles agreed to a 7-year, $161 million contract for Davis to stay in Baltimore. He
will receive a $17 million annual salary from 2016 to 2022, and will receive additional annual payments through 2037, when he will be 51. There is no interest accrued on the deferrals.
The two sides reached an agreement less than two days after the Orioles, frustrated by stalled negotiations with Davis, reportedly made an offer to free-agent Yoenis Cespedes.